Google News Algorithm: Science News Is Now Business News

Do you have a question? Post it now! No Registration Necessary.  Now with pictures!

This letter to the feedback team at Google News Beta is being
cross-posted to the usenet newsgroup
in the hope of stimulating discussion and comment.

Dear Google:

The increasingly egregious dilution of the Sci/Tech portion of
Google's News Beta search service with business news articles --
to the point that only 2 - 3 of the top 20 stories are NOT about
business news on any given day -- has caused me to check for
keyword density of certain terms, trying to find what it is that
the Google News Beta search algorithm perceives as "science"

So far i have noted that most of the top 20 "science news"
stories Google is returning on blank queries for Sci/Tech news
are weighted in favour of the following keywords

acquisition / acquires / acquired
corporation / corporate
market / markets / marketing
product / products / production
consumer / consumers
electronic / electronics
Silicon Valley
Hewlett-Packard / HP

Obviously these are business-related keywords that have nothing
to do with science or technology per, despite the fact that a few
of the corporations named do produce consumer electronics
products for the mass market. These business terms have
apparently been given weighted priority in Google's News Beta
search service algorithm over traditional science keywords that
one would expect to see in an assortment of blank-search science
news articles, like

science / scientist / scientists / scientific
zoology / zoologist / zoologists / zoological
astronomy / astronomer / astronomers / astronomical
biology / biologist / biologists / biological
botany / botanist / botanists / botanical
chemistry / chemist / chemists / chemical
physics / physicist / pysicists / physical
meteorology / meteorologist / meteorologists / meteorological
seismology / seismologist / seismologists / seismological
research / researcher / researchers
taxonomic / taxonomically
extinct / extinction
gene / genome / genetic
artificial intelligence / AI
big bang
volcano / volcanoes
global warming

As a reader interested in science news, i am experimenting with
the technique of finding keywords that i can use to override
Google's News Beta search service algorithm and force it to
produce science news results rather than business news results.

So far the best term i have found is the following:

science news

This is amusing, for obvious reasons. But go ahead and try it: go
to Google's News Beta search service site and make a blank search
in the "Sci/tech" area and see how few science stories are
returned (usually 3 out of 20, the rest being business or crime
news). Then type in "science news" (not in quotes) as your search
term and -- voila! -- lots of science news stories!

I suggest that the algorithm authors in Google's News Beta search
service research group might give this a try.

Obviously what i have proposed is a crude hack -- the actual
algorithm that sifts news stories and sorts them by category
should consist of delicately balanced and weighted keywords
functioning in perfect harmony. However, the fact that i can
produce satisfactory results simply by adding the all-or-nothing
keyword term filter  "science news" (not in quotes) to Google's
raw news database indicates that the algorithm that produces
Google's Sci/Tech news results is in *serious* need of tweaking.  

One last comment: In discussions with search engine enthusiasts
and SE designers, the subject of Google's Sci/Tech News Beta
algorithm failure has invariably generated snide mentions of
Google's recent IPO and its perceived betrayal of scientific
principles in favour of business profits --  but i am going to
stay outside that topic. I choose to deal with this issue merely
from the perspective of science -- specifically the artificial
intelligence aspect of search engine technology -- and i would
appreciate it if others do so as well.

Making fun of a scientist for how he or she gets funding is not
relevant to how good his or her science is. In this case, the
embedded AI paradigm which has long informed and fueled Google's
unprecedented refinement of SE technology has seemingly
collapsed. I am critiquing Google's SCIENCE only, not their
source of funding, and i am not so much interested in humourous
conspiracy theory quips as to why this has happened as i am in
getting to the bottom of how to draw attention to it and then to
encourage Google's research team to fix it.


cat yronwode

news:alt.lucky.w -- discussions on folk magic, luck, amulets, charms

Site Timeline